Supervisor plans task force to prepare SF for marijuana legalization statewide

If California voters approve recreational marijuana for adults at the November 2016 ballot, Scott Wiener wants San Francisco to be ready.

The supervisor is expected to introduce legislation Tuesday to create a task force charged with figuring out how to best allow for recreational marijuana use in San Francisco. The task force will comprise officials from city government and the school district, along with neighborhood activists and medical cannabis industry players.

“Whatever one’s views on cannabis … it looks like full legalization is going to the ballot,” Wiener told The San Francisco Examiner on Monday. “We have to be prepared.”

California in 1996 was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and San Francisco was the first city to regulate dispensaries selling the product.

Since then, four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska — and Washington, D.C., have outright legalized marijuana for adult use.

Officials across the state are preparing for California to do the same. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is planning a run for governor in 2018, is chairing an American Civil Liberties Union task force that is also outlining legalization best practices.

There are currently three marijuana legalization initiatives in the petition stage, gathering the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot. However, none of them appear to have the resources — as much as $20 million — needed to run and win a statewide campaign.

The group most likely to mount a serious legalization effort is a coalition led by the Drug Policy Alliance and an outfit called Reform California, but it has yet to craft a proposed law.

San Francisco has tried to involve the local marijuana industry in crafting policy before, with decidedly mixed results.

A short-lived task force created by Supervisor David Campos in 2010 — the year when Californians voted to reject recreational marijuana — ended without its recommendations being adopted by the Board of Supervisors, which in recent years has avoided the issue altogether.

To avoid a repeat of that, Wiener is aiming for a “broad base of support” with a group that includes appointees from the mayor, police and fire chiefs, building inspectors and school officials, many of whom have not supported marijuana in the past.

Neighborhood advocates and representatives from organized labor, which has begun organizing marijuana workers, will also be involved, Wiener said. With medical cannabis a billion-dollar industry in California and polling suggesting that legalization is inevitable, regulations are a necessity and they must have a “broad base of support,” Wiener said.

“We need to have a plan in place rather than reacting after the fact,” he said. “And we know this can be done in a smart and thoughtful way.”

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